So here is this highly sensitive client. Yes she is, you can bet on it. Because I am and you are. We sniff each other out. Because we’re safe.
And because she (yes she can be a he, but let’s just get on with the female pronouns) is highly sensitive a few things happen.
Feeling can be overwhelming.
Sharing what you feel is impossible (no one gets it)
Rejection sensitivity builds up: HS people stand out even when they don’t mean to. They are slower to respond (because they need time for all the associations in their heads), and when they respond, it’s always slightly skewed, off the mark.
So they tend to shut up and do it all in their heads. Even the feeling, because the pain of rejection sensitivity causes real pain, comparable with physical pain.
Not every highly sensitive person does this. The ones that grew up in an environment dat was encouraging their uniqueness do quite well. They don’t develop rejection sensitivity. But you will not see them as a client, because they don’t need you.
So here they are.
In their head.
And most of what they feel is also inside their head, because they are fast thinkers, and wildly imaginative. And this is what makes them so difficult. They can fool you because they can fool themselves.
So if you do a thing about feeling selfworthy, feeling powerful. They can relate. They can even do an exercise about it and really feel that. They can dig that up, and at the same time carefully avoid the place where all their unworthiness is.
They can give you the feeling you want as a coach (they are such pleasers) and at the same time block their feelings.
So how do you get them out of their heads, and keep them out of their heads?
I was a head-dweller myself. And now I am so much in my body that whenever my head is robbing my attention I friendly tell my head that it can play with my attention a bit, but not too long, because I want it back.
And it works, it keeps on working.
Because I did the work.
I worked at all nine fields of the resilience toolkit.
I love the word resilience, because you can not avoid being floored by life, but you can learn to get up by yourself. (Asking for a hand is also doing it by yourself).
To get out of my head and stay there I learned to
- Be open minded.
Letting go of judgments. Learning to be curious again.
- Letting go.
Seeing my flow of thoughts for what is is, and be able not to go with it all the time.
- Focus and attention
Becoming aware of how my attention was all over the place, and learning to control it.
Going to the dark places. Feel what is there. Letting it be, instead of wanting to alter it.
- Facing it
Learning to deal with pain. Letting my body get used to feeling pain and anxiety. Teaching it that these are just feelings nothing to be afraid of.
Practicing all this in real life with very small and fun (yes also a bit scary) steps. Knowing it is not about the results but about what I feel at the moment. Building courage muscles.
Dealing with differences in status. Little evolutionary story: we HPS’s are not fond of the fight for a higher place on the ladder. So whenever we meet someone where the difference in status is not obvious, we lower our status, so we won’t get into a fight. To be able to be fluent in status change we need to practice high status without shutting off our feeling (that being the easy way to pull of high status).
Learning again to enjoy all of my senses, without holding back
- value-based actions
Here is the shame-guilt thing: Shame is feeling that you trespass on values of others. Guilt is feeling that you trespass on values of myself. I need shame, because my own values need to be checked with the values of others. There is this constant interaction between the two. But now I get to decide what is healthy for me and act on that. My decision to care about values of others is my choice, not based on fear of rejection. My values are worth that rejection.
It was not one thing I learned that as an avalanche triggered all the others. Not even my transition could do that. In fact my transition was the cause of, as well as the condition for many of my work on these fields.
They all depend on the other, they overlap, but you need them all. And as a coach you should be aware of that.
These nine fields are based on the toolkit from the Ducth expertise center on High Sensitivy “GaveMensen“ run by Xandra van Hooff.
Xandra has made her toolkit based on this book: